Couldn't help thinking of our old friend Burgermeister Mesiterburger at the BBG Picnic Night. (Talk about first world problems, but the Q's going for it, so settle in.) If you spend the roughly $100 for a membership to our dear Garden, one of the greatest treats of living in Central BK, you get invited to the after-hours Member Nights on Wednesdays during the summer. And on a few select evenings, you're even allowed to picnic on the grass! Oh hurrah, and hurray, say the little children. A chance to run and play on the most perfect lawns, with parents sipping wine and talking to neighbors and old friends from the playground, school or 'hood. Most Leffertsians seem to congregate on the beautiful open spaces just west of the cafe. It's a truly joyous occasion, and always leaves one with the most utter respect and love for the garden and its carefully coiffed arboretum.
Until last night.
Just after 6pm, as parents were laying out blankets and pulling out the corkscrews and quinoa salads, first one then two security guards show up, looking none too pleased. That's okay wethinks. They're just here to make sure the Garden's many manicured plants and trees are treated respectfully. Just as some girls have taken off their shoes and start engaging in the night's first cartwheels, and some of the boys start chasing each other, the directive comes loud and clear.
"Children must not play or run. If they continue you will be asked to leave."
The parents looked at each aghast. The children must not play or run? That's like telling the pope not to wear a funny hat. Or telling the fat lady not to sing. Or telling birds not to eat worms. Or telling Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account (is he actually gonna keep that once he's President? "Had lunch with Goofy Angela Merkel today. Her ratings are terrible. Not attractive. Doesn't have the best words.") No one can even believe it. The kids look at us like someone just cancelled Christmas. "What, no toys this year?" Clearly this directive came from someone without children, right? Lots of kids. Nice weather. Food and happy parents. Luxurious grass. Perfect setting. Good food. And...no running or playing. Might as well ask the dollar vans to slow down.
So the Q wouldn't be the Q if he just sat there, so he goes up to the guy and asks what's going on, but this only makes him more adamant. So the Q goes to his superior, who says the rules are to protect the garden. Fair enough. Stop the kids who are climbing on trees or ripping up grass, I say. Escort out the parents whose kid bludgeoned a toddler with a plastic light saber. But don't tell our kids not to run and play. Nothing. So now I ask to be directed to the head of security and the membership manager, whose job it is to keep the numbers up for memberships. I walk all the way to the Brooklyn Museum parking lot entrance, and as I approach they say "there he is." Someone has radioed ahead. As I start in explaining you can tell children not to eat the bamboo, but you can't tell them not to do cartwheels the security man says "I was with you til you said cartwheels. Our job is to keep the children safe, and they simply can't be doing cartwheels." I ask if he knows what a cartwheel is, but that's not going anywhere good. So I hear them out. Sometimes picnic night gets out of hand, children running willy nilly, parents not watching them, pretty soon someone gets hurt or lost and the BBG gets sued. Has anyone sued the BBG over picnic night? No. But no matter. I try a different tack. "Why not tell your guys to find some middle ground? Stand down a bit, let's see how it plays out. The parents will do their best to keep the kids from (I gulp) hurting themselves by playing on the hard, hard, nasty, sharp grass. (Okay, I didn't say that, but I wanted to.) Much to my surprise, they agreed.
Eventually, the parents and children so outnumbered the garden personnel that they were forced to concede defeat. A few of our girls actually approached the guards themselves and asked why the "no play zone?" We were proud of course that our seven year olds were self-possessed enough to approach their elders like that, and the guards agreed that a few cartwheels, well designed and executed, would probably be all right. Pretty soon the garden was back to reasonable chaos.
By the end of the night we felt happy again, though with a bit of WTF taste on our tongues. Then today comes word from a local parent that during regular hours today she and her kids were aggressively scolded for getting too close to the sprinklers. They weren't even running. Or playing, really. So unnecessary. Simply not nessa.
The Q loves the garden so much. He's been going for more almost 30 years. He was in love with the Chunky Chicken Salad and saddened, no HORRIFIED, when they discontinued it. Then this new caterer comes in, and frankly, the lines are long and the food overpriced. The chili tastes fine, but it's too much broth and not enough, er, stuff. There's only two registers when there used to be three. Even the longtime workers seem unhappy. And don't get me started about the absurdly long construction time on the new garden areas. Is it, like, one guy doing all the work? They hired a landscaper from Long Island to come in on his days off?
To the Garden. Please. Three nights a year, for two and a half-hours at a pop, let the kids run free. And at other times, don't harass us. If you see something truly dangerous or disruptive, fine. But let people walk without their shoes off for chrisakes. This is about enjoying nature and appreciating the botanicals. And while the reeds near the little creek and the leaves on the trees are beautiful, they ain't the Mona Lisa. Tiny damages, when they happen, will grow back. Tiny damages, like the rift that opened with my beloved garden last night, will heal. Just..chill out, y'all. For the sake of the children.